High definition systems for apartments

Not much room to spare? Don’t worry, you can have great sound anyway

Your room – whether it be a dedicated home theatre space, your bedroom, or something in between – is as much a part of your home theatre system as the components themselves. So, once again, balance is needed. Two hundred kilograms of high-end loudspeakers are going to be overkill in a teen’s bedroom… regardless of what he or she thinks.

So what if you have a compact apartment? Must you surrender quality simply because of space considerations? Not at all! There will be compromises to be made, but these will not have the impact on performance that you might expect.

The picture

Let us start by briefly considering an appropriate TV. If you are sitting only a couple of metres away from it, then we can make two firm recommendations: make it a full high definition panel (that is, with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels) and no larger than 107 cm (42 inches).

Without full resolution, or with too large a panel to which you are sitting too close, the picture will tend to look a little dotty and disjointed, even with DVDs.

The sound

And now we need sound that is in balance with such a display. First, we know that you won’t need a huge subwoofer. In fact, we recommend that you choose a subwoofer that has specifications suggesting it delivers bass down to about 30 to 35 hertz. The deeper the bass a system produces, the more likely you are to have sound leaking into neighbours’ apartments. Some DVDs and Blu-ray discs contain material that goes into uncontrollable infrasonic territory (that is, deeper than the level of hearing, but not below the level of feeling!) Another advantage of this is that such subwoofers are nicely compact.

For speakers, you will also want to keep things compact. There are three options here. First, there is the subwoofer/satellite system. The small satellite speakers can be attached to walls, keeping them well out of the way. The second is a variation on this: a subwoofer and wall-mount loudspeakers. These are flat models designed to be attached to a wall near a panel TV, and blend with it visually. The third is the soundbar, which produces a surround effect without the need for rear loudspeakers or, with most models, a home theatre receiver. This has the advantage of avoiding the need to run wires around the room.

A low- to mid-priced home theatre receiver (if not supplied as part of the speakers) should provide sufficient power. A smaller space means less room to fill with sound, making the speakers easier to drive.

The source

To continue to keep things compact, why not skip a DVD player entirely and go straight for a Blu-ray player. Some very good models are now available for under $500 and these will, of course, also play your DVDs.

Look for

Mid-sized full HD flat panel TV
•Home theatre in a box or soundbar speaker system
•Blu-ray player